Green stimulus – fine words, little action

I have long thought that we’ll live to regret our failure to use the current crisis to nudge the global economy onto a greener trajectory. A WWF/E3G report, published today, heightens this fear.

By weighting elements of national stimulus packages, it offers a quick and dirty estimate of how green each one is. The answer is ‘not very’ with the UK’s risible effort one of the worst offenders.

The share of ‘climate friendly’ stimulus is small, researcher find, and it’s more than offset by investment in roads (including one to Manchester airport) and fossil fuel R&D (yes – read that and weep).

You can quibble with the analysis. Investment in nuclear is not included on the green side of the ledger – which seems unfair on the French, who have low per capita emissions relative to GDP and expect additional nuclear investment to push them lower. But the scoring is transparent and easy for others to replicate with different weightings.

And there’s a much bigger point: why is it up to a couple of NGOs to do this work? By now, the G20 should have set up standardised and sophisticated systems for monitoring the net carbon impact of each country’s stimulus package.

That they haven’t shows how confused and fragmented our thinking remains about the interlocking crises the world faces.

Disclosure: I recently agreed to act as an adviser to E3G in the run up to Copenhagen, but have had no involvement in any aspect of this report.